The last time Sabathia and Price faced each other, I compared it to Dinocroc vs. Supergator. This time around I’m afraid it was more like Sharktopus vs. a blonde in a bikini; the Rays creamed the Yankees 10-1 in a game that saw Sabathia uncharacteristically implode, and Javy Vazquez not entirely uncharacteristically implode.
Neither starter was as sharp tonight as they were in their last matchup, but Price and Sabathia hung in there well enough to keep things close for the first five innings. The Yanks took an early lead when Marcus Thames (“Glenallen Hill Historical Re-Enactment Society Chairman Marcus Thames,” as Jay Jaffe dubbed him) hit a big ol’ homer to left, scoring Robinson Cano. The Rays came right back in the third, as a series of singles allowed Ben Zobrist to score Jason Bartlett; but in the bottom of the fifth, Greg Golson reached home on a gentle Nick Swisher single, and with Sabathia on the mound guarding a 3-1 lead it looked like the Yankees might get the best of this series.
It was at this point that the game got out its MetroCard and hopped on the 9:15 crosstown handbasket to Hell.
Carl Crawford singled, Evan Longoria doubled. Fine – these things happen. Rocco Baldelli singled, which is a bit more surprising but, given all he’s been through, hey – good for him, you know? 3-2 Yankees. Willy Aybar singled; Kelly Shoppach walked. It was at this point, with the game tied, that I began to suspect an evil alien force had possessed Sabathia, and when he then walked Sean Rodriguez, it was all the confirmation I needed. C.C. Sabathia just doesn’t do that sort of thing, and I only hope Gene Monahan and the Yankee trainers have some good exorcism strategies to get this demon out of the Yankee ace before the playoffs start.
Joe Girardi came to this realization around the same time I did, and yanked Sabathia in favor of Joba Chamberlain, who turned 25 today, and also gave up a ground-rule double to B.J. Upton and a single to Carl Crawford. This was probably Sabathia’s worst start of the year – it was the most runs he’s ever given up as a Yankee – and certainly his worst since May, when he scuffled for a few weeks. It was 8-3 Rays, but at this point it looked like a run-of-the-mill bad game, just one of those nights. It took Javier Vazquez to elevate things into Grand Guignol.
I don’t generally buy into the whole “he just can’t handle playing in New York” idea, but if anyone ever changes my mind on that point, it will be Javy Vazquez. I don’t know if he was merely having a very, very bad night or if we just witnessed a Steve Blass-style mental and physical breakdown live on television; Vazquez came into the game and walked Ben Zobrist, then hit the next three batters in a row. This tied the American League record, and was only the eighth time in all of Major League history that a pitcher has hit three in a row. Whether to conserve his pen or to allow Vazquez to reclaim a shred of dignity by letting him clean up his own mess, Girardi left him in the game. The worst was over, but it was one hell of a discouraging moment for a pitcher who’s had a number of them in the Bronx.
The inning finally bled out; it was 10-1 by then and not even the most die-hard fans could envision a comeback. By the end of “God Bless America”, most of the crowd had evaporated and Girardi had replaced his regulars with most of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster. Inspired by that choice, I’ve decided to do the same thing and remove myself from this recap.
Now typing for Emma Span: her dog Pearl.
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